Canada is run by nepo babies

If you’re a Torontonian, your mayor, premier and prime minister all have politicians in their family

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As was pointed out by commentator J.J. McCullough in the aftermath of Monday night’s Toronto mayoral byelection, Torontonians now have a mayor who is the widow of a politician, a premier who is the brother of a politician and a prime minister who is the son of a politician.

Nepotism (and nepo babies) has always been a feature of Canadian politics, some times more than others. Below, a quick guide to the members of Canada’s ruling class who just happen to have other politicians in their family tree.

Olivia Chow
Mayor-elect of Toronto

Chow was already a politician before meeting spouse Jack Layton, who died in 2011. She was working for the NDP and running as a school board trustee when she met Layton in 1985. But as a result of the couple’s 1988 marriage, Chow is now the widow of a former leader of the Opposition, as well as the daughter-in-law of Layton’s father, former Progressive Conservative MP Robert Layton. And when you really dive into the Layton family tree, there’s also a Father of Confederation (William Steeves) and a minister in the government of Quebec strongman Maurice Duplessis. Chow is also stepmother to Mike Layton, a longtime Toronto city councillor.

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Mélanie Joly
Minister of foreign affairs

Joly has said she “always knew” she would go into politics, and it’s in part because she grew up around a lot of it. Her father was on the Liberal Party of Canada’s Quebec finance committee. Her mother has made runs for municipal politics and her stepmother, Carole-Marie Allard, was a Liberal MP in the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Justin Trudeau
Prime minister

While it’s common knowledge that Trudeau is the son of a prime minister, less well-known is that he’s also the grandson of a cabinet minister on his mother’s side. Margaret Trudeau is the daughter of James Sinclair, a Vancouver MP who was minister of fisheries in the 1950s (the Vancouver shopping complex Sinclair Centre is named after him). Another weird Trudeau family connection is that when he won the Liberal leadership in 2013, one of his opponents was Deborah Coyne, the mother of his half-sister. She is also related to a former Bank of Canada governor as well as columnist Andrew Coyne.

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Jagmeet Singh
Leader of the NDP

Singh’s family tree contains a rather prominent campaigner for Indian self-rule. Sewa Singh Thikriwala was a founder of Praja Mandal, a movement to obtain self-government within the princely states, semi-autonomous regions of India overseen by the British Raj. It’s due to this pedigree that Barnala, the home village of Singh’s father, has adopted Jagmeet as a “second” political hero. While Singh was the first member of his family to launch a career in Canadian politics, he was followed soon after by his brother Gurratan. The younger Singh was an NDP MPP for the Ontario riding of Brampton East until he was defeated in 2022.

Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario

Ford’s brother Rob led a tumultuous term as mayor of Toronto, and both Ford brothers were longtime Toronto city councillors. Their father, Doug Ford Sr., was an MPP in the Ontario Legislative Assembly and is the reason why the park near their family home is called Douglas Ford Park. Ford’s nephew Michael is also an MPP, and the premier would controversially appoint him minister of multiculturalism despite Michael having no experience at the provincial level.

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Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

LeBlanc has been in the news a lot lately as the point man on the issue of foreign electoral interference. He was the one fielding awkward questions following the sudden departure of “special rapporteur” David Johnston, who resigned in part due to allegations that he was compromised by familial ties to Justin Trudeau. LeBlanc also has familial ties to Trudeau; he babysat Trudeau and his two brothers during the 1970s. LeBlanc’s father Roméo was in the cabinet of Trudeau’s father Pierre, and would later serve as Governor General in the 1990s.

IN OTHER NEWS

One of the leading theories on why Canada refuses to take meaningful action to bring down real estate prices is the simple fact that policymakers are disproportionately comprised of landlords and homeowners. Quebec has largely been spared the worst excesses of the Canadian unaffordability crisis, but in recent years even they have started to get a taste of a housing market that’s closed off to average people. Against this background, an investigative team from TVA tracked down the homes of every member of the cabinet of Premier François Legault and looked up their assessed value. The average price came to $1.6 million.

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Olivia Chow after winning the Toronto mayoralty.
One other detail about Olivia Chow as the next mayor of Toronto: She got about 37 per cent of the vote, which is the slimmest mandate for a Toronto mayor since Nathan Phillips in 1954 (he got 34 per cent). Photo by The Canadian Press/Chris Young

For all his “angry populist” image, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been rather hesitant to take on any culture war issues – something that has earned him flak from his right-wing flank. This has been particularly true on some of Canada’s more controversial trans issues, including the gender transitioning of children and the transfer of trans women to women’s prisons based on self-ID. So it’s notable that Poilievre has waded ever-so-slightly into the controversy in New Brunswick, where Premier Blaine Higgs has resisted a plan empowering schools to socially transition students without informing parents. During an unrelated visit to New Brunswick, when queried on the issue Poilievre said “my message to Justin Trudeau is, ‘Butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids.’”

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Graphic showing Canadian wildfire smoke hitting Europe.
After smoking out New York City and much of the U.S. northeast, Canadian forest fire smoke is even starting to hit Europe. It’s not really having any noticeable effect on the air quality, but U.K. meteorologists are noting that the Canadian smoke is yielding some particularly vivid British sunsets. Photo by UK Met Office

Two years ago, the B.C. government conducted a survey of parents, students and teachers canvassing their thoughts about a plan to abolish letter grades. Basically everyone hated the idea, including a whopping 83 per cent of students. So the government ignored the survey and did it anyway. Starting in the fall, students up to grade 9 will instead be graded using a vague scale that says only whether a student is “not yet meeting,” “fully meeting” or “exceeding” expectations.

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